Scary Scales – An Unfortunate Musical Analogy

Scary Scales

The frenetic scales loop race is heating up in my piano studio! Several weeks ago we began a quest to learn as many scales as we can before the end of the school year. As students have begun to complete the major scales we’ve started learning how to change them into minor scales. To help the kids hear the difference between the two I describe the minor scales as the sad sounding ones or scary ones and the major ones as the happy ones. Well, yesterday after showing a student how to figure out the minor scales on his own

I heard myself say,

“Let’s play some more scary scales”.

I immediately realized that this analogy went against everything I’ve done to try to help kids NOT see scales as scary, evil things!

Oh well, my bad!

Update on Scale Links Project

This spring my students are concentrating on learning and perfecting the major scales and pentascales. The younger students are working to learn all 12 pentascales and the older students are tackling the major scales. Their goal is to not only be able to play them fluently but to know the note names for each scale. Each time a student successfully learns a scale they add a link to their scale chain as shown above. So far, two students are tied for first place with 5 scales!

The biggest challenge so far has been helping students understand that they cannot earn a link on the same day they are introduced to the scale. They have a hard time understanding that just because they can play through the scale does not mean they know it! So, each week at the beginning of the lesson they have to play the scales they already earned links for in addition to any new scale they practiced during the week. This is helping them to realize that they have to stay on top of those scales!

What do you do to encourage students to become fluent in playing scales? Tell us in a comment below!

Free “A Major Scale” mp3

If you’ve been following my last few posts, you know that my students are in the middle of a Scales Links Challenge. To help  them remember the notes for the scales I’ve recorded some original scale songs. You can download the A Major Scale song, “A-A-A I Like To Play” for free here!

Learning Scales and Understanding Songs

Here’s a quick way to help students understand where scales end and how LOTS (most?) of the songs they are learning move:

You wake up in the morning at home and you go to various places throughout the day, but you don’t move in with somebody else at the end of the day – you go back home!

Musical translation #1- when playing your scales you will end on the same note you started with.

Musical translation #2 – Songs often end on their key note. For example if a song is in the key of G Major its last note is typically G.

DIY Music Theory Manipulatives!

I found this bucket of dominoes on a recent trip to Tuesday Morning for around $5! If your local store doesn’t have it you can get it on for $14.99. The bucket comes with 250 blank dominoes in 5 different colors. I am using the dominoes to help piano students learn to spell scales and build chords.

Using a sharpie, I wrote the letters of the music alphabet on individual dominoes. Then I drew sharps and flats on the dominoes as well. You will notice that I chose to use orange for all the sharps and blue for all the flats. There are more than enough dominoes to make a complete set of each of the 12 major scales without even using all of them. I ended up having a whole set of red dominoes left over to use for something else. I might use one side for numbers 1-7 and the other side for Roman Numerals to help students learn the scale degrees.

It took me about an hour to draw all the letter names and symbols, so if you’ve got an hour to spare now for this project it could save you several hours in the future because you can surely use this for teaching lots of theory concepts. An added bonus is that it is self – containing. The bucket easily stores all the pieces in one place!